Gales of 100mph wreak havoc across south

THE south of Britain was yesterday hit by the worst storm of the year so far, with wind speeds reaching 100mph.

Although Scotland escaped yesterday, forecasters warned Scots to brace themselves for high winds, with speeds of 70mph expected in the west of the country tomorrow.

Emergency services south of the Border yesterday tackled flash floods in coastal regions and rescued scores of motorists from their cars. In several areas trees fell on vehicles – a women was injured in Lowestoft, Suffolk – and power lines.

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Ferries between England and France were cancelled because of high winds. Three oilrig workers were rescued by a lifeboat after their supply boat ran aground at Ness Point, Britain's most easterly point. A gust of 100mph was recorded at Needles, on the Isle of Wight.

Firefighters said about 60 homes were damaged in Benfleet, Essex, over an area of about half a square mile.

"A severe storm hit the Fairway area, and what is believed to have been a tornado had ripped through the street and surrounding area," said station officer Simon Dedman yesterday.

"Fire crews made sure everyone stayed in their properties as they assessed the damage and made the area safe."

The Environment Agency has 24 flood warnings in force, most in southern coastal regions.

The storm caused disruption throughout the south and west. In Haywards Heath, West Sussex, workers stranded by floodwater in four units on the Burrell Road industrial estate were rescued by boat.

West Sussex firefighters were also called out after a tree caught light after falling on power lines.

In Wales, Pembrokeshire was the hardest hit, with widespread flooding of the county's roads network trapping people in their cars.

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Firefighters using a boat and a Land Rover rescued a woman stranded by floodwaters in the Rosemarket, at Milford Haven.

In Haverfordwest, 12 people were rescued from a coach trapped in floodwater. Floods in Tenby affected roads around the resort, blocking cars and trapping people inside their cars. In all, 14 people were rescued from vehicles in and around the town.

Many parts of Cornwall, including Padstow harbour, were also hit, the fire service said.

In Dorset, five people, including a pregnant woman and two young children, fled their car when it was enveloped by floodwater at Whitchurch Canonicorum, near Bridport.

Some sailings across the Channel were disrupted due to the rough seas and winds gusting up to force 10, the Port of Dover said.

SeaFrance crossings from Dover to Calais and LD Lines services to Boulogne were subject to some delays.

A Port of Dover spokesman warned people to expect further disruption.

Stephen Davenport of MeteoGroup UK said: "This is the strongest storm we have had this year."

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It developed off the west coast and was fed by the still-warm autumn sea temperatures, he said.